US-based Kiwi Theologian / Academic Douglas A. Campbell has his latest book Framing Paul: An Epistolary Biography (448 pages), due out around the 29th November (2014), Below you will find a video clip in which he introduces some of the themes of the book
Blogging Friend, Jason Clark put me on to a publication that sounds both fascinating and useful - God's EPIC Adventure, published in 2007 and written by Winn Griffin. Griffin is a member of Society of Biblical Literature, the Society for Pentecostal Studies, and the Society of Vineyard Scholars. In writing the book he draws (with his own variation) on NT. Wright’s very helpful schema - the Bible as an unfolding drama / play comprising “Five Acts”. I first came across this schema in reading Wright’s essay: How Can the Bible Be Authoritative? Originally published in the journal in Vox Evangelica, 1991.
Wright’s five-act schema is: (1) Creation; (2) Fall; (3) Israel; (4) Jesus; and (5) The New Testament and on up to now (which of course requires faithful improvisation.
Others have used this same schema since. Some have helpfully modified it. For example, Kevin J. Vanhoozer sees “The Fall” not as its own act, but as the conflict in the first act, creation. He prefers to see each of the five acts of the theodrama as: (1) creation, (2) election of Israel, (3) Christ, (4) Pentecost and the church, and (5) consummation. And, unlike Wright, the church does not have to work out the ending so much as to live in its light.
While Colin Greene, author of Metavista: Bible, Church and Mission in an Age of Imagination (co-written with Martin Robinson) “views the biblical story as an open- ended narrative that contains four fundamental stories all of which are re-appropriated and re-configured in the others. So for instance the creation and exodus traditions are picked up and re-configured by second Isaiah as the writer seeks to come to terms with the traumatic reality of exile. The Jesus story picks up both the creation and Israel stories and reconfigures these traditions in terms of Jesus’ preaching about the coming Kingdom of God. Furthermore none of these stories has reached historical resolution – the creation story is still ongoing as is the Israel and Jesus stories – Jesus has not completed his mission of bringing salvation to the world through the Holy Spirit – so that entails that people can enter the biblical story at any juncture.” (See here in my interview with Greene).
The word "EPIC" in the book title is an acronym meaning: (1) Experiential, (2) Participatory, (3) Image-Rich, and (4) Connected. I first came across the acronym by way of Leonard Sweet. He used it in one of his early books (published in 2000) – “…Creating an EPIC church for EPIC Times…”
Anyway, aside aside, it’s back to Winn Griffin’s book God's EPIC Adventure (ISBN 0979907608 Format: Paperback, 412 Pages). PDF of opening pages here.
Griffin’s schema is six-fold: (1) Creation, (2) Chaos, (3) Covenant, (4) Christ, (5) Church, and (6) Consummation.
The Foreword is by Leonard Sweet “[This] book is an invitation to the party of your life.” While the Afterword is by Brian McLaren “…a solid and inspiring presentation of the Biblical storyline.”
“You sit down to read the text of Scripture. When you look at it on the page, it looks like some kind of a strange technical manual with all those large and small numbers that break up the text. Because Scripture is presented this way, readers have learned to read and memorize those small fragments and that has led to fragmented lives amongst the flock of the followers of Jesus. We have become versified mutts, suffering from what Griffin calls versitis. What is the antidote to this serious, potentially deadly problem? Learning to Read and Live in God’s Story.
God’s EPIC Adventure provides the reader with a basic background of how we find ourselves in our present position of reading Scripture in such a fragmentized way. In God’s EPIC Adventure, Griffin uses Bishop Tom Wright’s five-act-play model as a way of presenting Scripture as a full-length Story in order to assist the reader in a better reading experience of Scripture’s text. Thinking and reading Scripture as Story can result in a follower of Jesus learning the art of living in the Story that Scripture presents, rather than applying fragmented parts of it and becoming a theological quilt. Griffin presents the gluing themes of Covenant in the Old Testament and Kingdom of God in the New Testament as two ways of saying the same thing, namely that God has invaded this present evil age with his rule.
In the Prologue, he helps the reader discover how we ended up in this theological fix of reading Scripture in such a fragmented way. Then, he presents the Story in a chronological storyline from Genesis to Revelation. In the last section of this book, he presents a way of thinking about how we as actors in God’s Story can use our imagination and improvise our part in God’s EPIC Adventure. Griffin keys God’s EPIC Adventure to the New Bible Dictionary and The Books of The Bible so that the reader can get more information about the text and can read the text without all the human additives that have been placed in the text that hinder its reading.”
I’m hoping that it will be a really stimulating read, a counterbalance to the fragmented way we so often read the Bible, an argument against reading the Bible as a series of proof-texts, and an encouragement to read it is an epic unfolding drama within which we find ourselves narrated. Most importantly I’m hoping it will help us actually read ourselves into and out of this all too human theo-drama.
In January 2014 Michael Gorman conducted two interviews at St. Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore (where he teaches) with his good friend N. T. (Tom) Wright about his new book, Paul and the Faithfulness of God. The videos are on YouTube. In the first, he talks with Tom; in the second, he moderates a conversation about Paul between Tom Wright and Professor Richard Hays of Duke Divinity School.
Eugene Peterson in conversation – 2012 New Life (Colorado) Conference. Pastor Brady Boyd sits down with Eugene Peterson at his home in Montana to discuss his story, The Church and his hopes for the Local church Vimeo recording of the interview here. Downloadable Mp4 and Mp3 recordings can be found here (scroll down to 2012 conference). It feels like a complimentary resource to the excellent, recently published, collection of essay’s, which engage Peterson’s thought on pastoring and church - Pastoral Work: Engagements with the Vision of Eugene Peterson (published Jan. 2014).
See also this brief online (written) 2012 interview with Peterson on the reading and writing life of the Pastor.
This quote, thinking about words and stories we might use to talk about “resurrection”, from this post by Sheila Pritchard: “…"it's a process... life, growth, aging, decay, death and re-cycling…”
And finally, a few excerpts from this post by Maggi Dawn, centred on a Jesus-story that has been very important to me over a good number of years – John 21: 1-13.
“…Peter was done with grieving, done with trying to work out what to do next. The big dream was over--the hope of a Messiah to liberate them politically, the anticipation of a new kingdom, a new order, a new life. Jesus was risen and that meant joy, but it didn't change the fact that life couldn't continue as it had done for the last couple of years. Somehow they had to go back to their old lives and pick up where they'd left off…
… Even going fishing, you see, was never going to be the same again. It wouldn't really matter what Peter did from then on: none of it would ever be a matter of going back to what he did before. Everything would look different, smell different, taste different, because Jesus had walked through Peter's life, just as God had walked past Moses on the mountain top, and Peter had seen the glory of God just as surely as Moses had. Peter could go fishing any time he liked--he would always be a fisherman. What he couldn't do was go backwards.
Recognizing that Easter is 50 days long is important if, somehow, you have arrived at Easter morning and you don't feel overjoyed; don't feel much hope for the future. There are seasons in our lives when Lent is a more comfortable place to be, because it reflects our doubts and our struggles. Even if joy hasn't materialized for you yet, it's still a promise of things to come: a promise that the absence of God has been penetrated with light on the horizon, and the silence of the early morning is not hollow but hopeful, as if heaven is holding its breath, waiting for us to catch sight of it. We may still live with the frustration (like Moses) that all we can see is God's retreating back. But one day we will see face to face. We can never just go back to where we were before…”
And finally, this line from Barry Taylor talking about "darkness" in relation to Easter Saturday and life in general: "..Lately I am learning to let it be and not try and rush to discover a way through it but rather to spend time in that space and let it give me it's treasures, whatever they may be..."
Holy Week brings with is such a rich number of entry points into both the Jesus-story, and equally into our all together human stories; our struggles and our questing for richer, deeper, more whole and holy experiences of becoming more intergrated and authentically and compelling human, reflecting in that journey the humanity of he whom we call the "second Adam".
“What does it mean to preach the gospel today? How do we shape vibrant congregations? How do we preachers not merely survive, but thrive? For nearly a quarter century, Chris Neufeld-Erdman has preached the gospel--sustaining congregational life and emboldening Christian witness in the midst of this turbulence. He's also taught seminarians and mentored working pastors. His theology and practice of preaching is hammered out on the anvil of real life. It's tested. True. Useful. In this book, a veteran pastor meditates on everything from exegesis and sermon preparation to the way preachers might preach after tsunamis, hurricanes, and earthquakes. He reflects on what it means, for example, to host the text in the midst of what feels like a terminal state of war and violence, both abroad and at home, as well as the task of preaching in the midst of the massive anxiety produced by economic uncertainty and political gridlock. Here's a book that will inspire and guide you as a wise, empowered preacher--an ordinary agent of the extraordinary gospel.”
It’s important to note that this is a fully revised, updated, and expanded version of his earlier book, "Countdown to Sunday" (Brazos/Baker: 2007). There is a new chapter, Preaching in a Visual Age, which will be important for preachers and congregations today. As will be the additional sermon example and commentary at the end of the book. The new book also reflects the current political and social setting that can make preaching and the formation of the congregation challenging today.
My review of the earlier edition can be found here (PDF).
I highly recommend the new, fully revised and expanded edition. If you preach it’s a must read!.
A theologian I regularly check in on is Andrew Perriman. He recently put up a post, which explored whether Jesus thought of himself as God. It’s an engagement with the thinking of another theologian Michael Bird.
Here’s an excerpt:
“…I agree that Jesus interpreted his own role in the light of Daniel 7:13-14, and that by so doing he was “placing himself within the orbit of divine sovereignty and claiming a place within the divine regency of God Almighty” (66). But that is not the same as saying that Jesus “knew himself to be God”. The argument of Daniel 7:13-27 is that the Israel that remains faithful to the covenant under intense persecution will be vindicated by God and will be given dominion over the nations. If Jesus identifies himself with that narrative, it is because he believed that the future of God’s people at a time of greater crisis depended on the faithfulness of his followers and their willingness to suffer…”
James K A. Smith’s latest publication out shortly:
“Following his successful Who's Afraid of Postmodernism? leading Christian philosopher James K. A. Smith introduces the philosophical sources behind postliberal theology. Offering a provocative analysis of relativism, Smith provides an introduction to the key voices of pragmatism: Ludwig Wittgenstein, Richard Rorty, and Robert Brandom. Many Christians view relativism as the antithesis of absolute truth and take it to be the antithesis of the gospel. Smith argues that this reaction is a symptom of a deeper theological problem: an inability to honor the contingency and dependence of our creaturehood. Appreciating our created finitude as the condition under which we know (and were made to know) should compel us to appreciate the contingency of our knowledge without sliding into arbitrariness. Saying "It depends" is not the equivalent of saying "It's not true" or "I don't know." It is simply to recognize the conditions of our knowledge as finite, created, social beings. Pragmatism, says Smith, helps us recover a fundamental Christian appreciation of the contingency of creaturehood. This addition to an acclaimed series engages key thinkers in modern philosophy with a view to ministry and addresses the challenge of relativism in a creative, original way. ”
"It Depends": Creation, Contingency, and the Specter of Relativism
Community as Context: Wittgenstein on "Meaning as Use"
Who's Afraid of Contingency? Owning Up to Our Creaturehood with Rorty
Reasons to Believe: Making Faith Explicit after Brandom .
The (Inferential) Nature of Doctrine: Postliberalism as Christian Pragmatism
Epilogue: How to be a Conservative Relativist Index.
"It is often observed that one of the most important and revealing questions you can ask someone identified as a 'thinker' is 'What are you afraid of?' Writing with clarity and great sympathy, Smith helps us see that Christian theologians have betrayed their best insights by being afraid of relativism. He helps us see that the challenge is not relativism itself but rather the epistemological concerns that produced relativism. As is usually the case with Smith's work, this book is both clear and constructive: he not only provides a clear account of the work of Wittgenstein, Rorty, and Brandom but also develops an account of why and how Christians should navigate the contingent character of our lives."
Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Emeritus Professor of Theological Ethics, Duke Divinity School
“…Walter Brueggemann, one of my favourite Scripture scholars, discovered that the Hebrew Scriptures, in their development, reflect the development of human consciousness. Before we delve into the first half of life, it is helpful to use this model as an overview of the whole of life.
Brueggemann says there are three major segments to the Hebrew Scriptures. The first five books, or the Torah, correspond to the first half of life. The Torah is the period in which the people of Israel were given law, tradition, structure, certitude, order, clarity, authority, safety, and specialness. It would define them and give them their identity and hold them together.
You have to begin with some kind of Torah in normal healthy development. And it sure helps to believe that you are the “chosen people.” That’s what parents are giving their little ones—security, safety, specialness. The possibility of divine election is first mediated and made possible through the loving gaze of your parents and those around you (even neurologically).
The second major section of the Hebrew Scriptures is called The Prophets. This introduces the necessary “stumbling stones” that initiate you into the second half of life. Prophetic thinking is the necessary capacity for healthy self-criticism, the ability to recognize your own dark side, as the prophets did for Israel. Without that, most people (and most of religion) never move beyond tribal thinking, which is the belief that they and their group are the best, and really the “only.” It creates narcissism instead of any possibility of enlightenment.
If the psyche moves in normal sequence, the leaven of self-criticism added to the certainty of your own specialness will allow you to move to the third section of the Hebrew Scriptures: the Wisdom Literature, represented best in many of the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, the Song of Songs, and the Book of Job. Here you move into the language of mystery and paradox. This is the second half of life. You are strong enough now to hold together contradictions, even in yourself, even in others. And you can do so with compassion, forgiveness, patience, and tolerance. But we don’t move toward the second half until we’ve gone through the other two states. The best sequence, therefore, is order-disorder-synthesis…”
I was struck by this recent post my Maggi Dawn. And as I looked through her lists and on my bookshelves I offered a prayer of thanks for the female theologians that have so enriched my life and journey into a richer and deeper humanity.
Here’s an excerpt from Maggi’s post:
“…As I set out on my PhD studies a few years ago, with my first degree behind me, I began to get calls from publishers asking me to write about women in theology, feminist theology, what is it like to be a woman and a theologian. I took these very flattering letters along to my supervisor, herself a seasoned writer and very fine theologian. "You have a choice," she said. "You can write about women's issues as they relate to theology, and that is a fine thing to do. Or you can just carry on doing theology in your area of interest. But you can't do both."
"Why not?" I asked.
I never forgot her reply: "I've seen so many women start out with such promise," she said. "Then they are asked to write about being a woman, about being a feminist, and all that stuff. They spend so much time on that, their real area of interest is swamped, and then they don't do so well on their first call. Then guess what happens? - Men, behind closed doors, say to one another - 'told you so! Women can't cut it in theology!' So you choose: read Coleridge, or read feminism; do one well, but don't do both of them badly."…”
You’ll find her complete post and very comprehensive lists here.